Nat Commun. 2023 Aug 23;14(1):5133. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-40865-y.
Optical tweezers have profound importance across fields ranging from manufacturing to biotechnology. However, the requirement of refractive index contrast and high laser power results in potential photon and thermal damage to the trapped objects, such as nanoparticles and biological cells. Optothermal tweezers have been developed to trap particles and biological cells via opto-thermophoresis with much lower laser powers. However, the intense laser heating and stringent requirement of the solution environment prevent their use for general biological applications. Here, we propose hypothermal opto-thermophoretic tweezers (HOTTs) to achieve low-power trapping of diverse colloids and biological cells in their native fluids. HOTTs exploit an environmental cooling strategy to simultaneously enhance the thermophoretic trapping force at sub-ambient temperatures and suppress the thermal damage to target objects. We further apply HOTTs to demonstrate the three-dimensional manipulation of functional plasmonic vesicles for controlled cargo delivery. With their noninvasiveness and versatile capabilities, HOTTs present a promising tool for fundamental studies and practical applications in materials science and biotechnology.